The majority of chickens have combs, but why? The chicken comb is a very important part of the animal that serves several purposes. We’re going to go over why chickens have these combs and how to keep them healthy. We’ll also talk about the different types of combs, and more.
The Nine Types of Chicken Combs
Different chicken breeds have different combs. They include:
- Buttercup –The Sicilian Buttercup is the only breed to have this comb. It looks like a variation of the single comb. However, the points on this comb come full circle to form a small crown.
- Single –The single comb has distinct points at the peak. It’s upright, and it’s the comb we think of when we think of chickens. Ayam Cemani, Barnevelders, Faverolles, Leghorns, and Rhode Island Reds are examples of chickens with this comb.
- Carnation –The Carnation is a very rare comb type. There are extra points on this comb that stick out at right angles along the comb’s back. The Penedesenca and Empordanesa are the only two breeds with it.
- Pea –These combs are very small, and they’re excellent for chickens that live in climates with harsh winters. Brahmas, Ameraucanas, and Buckeyes have these combs.
- Cushion –This is a much smaller version of the strawberry comb. It looks like a small cushion that sits forward on your chicken’s head. The Chanticleers breed has it.
- Rose –This comb sits very flat to your chicken’s head. It won’t get frostbite, so it’s ideal for climates with harsh winters. There should be a spike at the back of the comb. Rose-combed Bantams and Dominiques Wyandottes have this comb.
- V – Known as the Devil’s Horn, the V comb is found in a select group of chickens. Breeds include the Sultan, Crèvecœur, and La Flèche.
- Strawberry –This chicken comb sits at a forward angle on your chicken’s head. It looks like a strawberry, and you can see it on Yokohama and Malay chickens.
- Walnut –This comb forms a large walnut-shaped that sits forward on your chicken’s head. Orloff and Silkie have this comb.
Chicken Comb Uses
The chicken comb is widely considered to be an organ. It has several useful purposes associated with it.
Body Temperature Control
Chickens don’t sweat, so their comb and wattles help them regulate their body temperatures. When it’s hot out, the comb will help diffuse some of the heat to keep the chicken cool. During the winter months, it helps to retain body heat to keep the bird comfortable.
The pecking order is real with chickens. There are going to be more dominant hens and roosters in a flock. Combs play a role in establishing this order. Typically, chickens with larger combs are more dominant and aggressive than chickens with smaller combs. This isn’t the rule 100% of the time, but it’s true for the majority of chickens.
Your comb’s coloring can clue you into your bird’s health. A healthy comb is black, purple, or red, depending on the chicken breed. A pullet may be light pink. If the comb is shrunken or pale, this can indicate health problems. It could mean your chicken has worms, is anemic, molting, or has heat exhaustion. A blue comb can mean your chicken has circulatory problems.
It can be challenging to determine your pullet’s age. In turn, it can be difficult to discern when they’re going to be old enough to lay eggs. A comb can help. The comb will grow bigger and turn purple or red as your pullet matures. This growth and color change is an indicator that they’ll start to lay soon.
Once your chicken reaches sexual maturity, their combs will grow. The wattles and combs are a sign of strength and vitality. A male chicken has a large and pronounced comb, while the females have smaller ones. Studies show that hens that have larger combs tend to lay more eggs.
Chicken Comb Health Issues
Chicken combs can suffer from a host of health problems. You want to address these issues quickly to stop them from getting worse.
Fowl pox comes in two types, and it’s a viral infection. It’s extremely contagious, and it’s slow-spreading among a flock. It only attacks the areas on the chicken that have no feathers. You’ll notice white or grey lesions on the wattles, face, or comb. Weight loss, decreased egg-laying, and lethargy is other symptoms. Treatment is very slow, and it can take months or years. Prevention is key. Plant insect repellents and get them vaccinated.
If your chickens get exposed to freezing temperatures or moisture, they’re at risk for frostbite. Once your chicken’s comb gets frostbite, the tissue gets damaged. There’s no fixing it except to remove the dead tissue.
Minor frostbite will typically heal by itself after a few days. Preventing frostbite is key. Make sure your chicken’s coop has no drafts, is well-ventilated, and is warm. We have a complete guide to keep your chickens warm in winter if you are wanting something more specific.
If a hen oversteps, and another hen may come along and offer a well-aimed peck at her comb. This can result in a small cut. However, the comb is full of blood vessels. This means it can ooze quite a bit of blood.
To stop the bleeding, apply direct pressure to the area. It’ll start to clot. If one chicken gets targeted, check it over. Chickens can sense sickness early, and they’ll try to drive the sick chicken out.
Your chicken’s comb will indicate other health problems. For example, worms are a common health problem with chickens. They’re also contagious. Your chicken’s comb will display a reaction to an infestation of worms. It’ll slowly drain the vibrant red coloring. Instead of standing up, it’ll hang limp. These are two big signs your chicken has something wrong with it, health-wise.
How to Keep Your Chicken’s Comb Healthy
You want to keep your chicken’s comb as healthy as possible. There are several ways you can accomplish this, and we outlined them below.
Look for Excessive Pecking
Sometimes, several chickens will gang up on one and peck them excessively. This can be bad for your chicken’s health, especially if they concentrate on the comb.
You want to remove any chicken that seems to be getting picked on. You can put smaller or underweight chickens in their own pen. Allow them time to heal and get healthy before you reintroduce them back into the main flock.
Open sores or blisters are prone to infection. Make sure you don’t accidentally pop any blisters and pay attention to open areas. Speak to your veterinarian and see if they recommend any antibiotics. This could be to prevent infection or help your chicken heal faster. You can add a layer of vaseline to large combs during the winter to prevent frostbite.
Infection or Dead Tissue
Your veterinarian should remove any dead or dying tissue from your chicken’s comb. They’ll also tell you how to best prevent infection and bring the comb back to full health. If there is an infection, they may recommend you apply topical antibiotic ointment until it heals.
Color and Texture
Any change in your chicken comb’s color or texture is an indicator that something isn’t right with your chicken. Keep a close eye on all of your chicken’s combs. They should be a healthy color without any flaky or dry areas. There should be no lesion, blisters, or torn tissue.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do chickens lose their combs?
Normally, no. The comb is an organ that is packed with blood vessels. Unless your chicken is sick, the comb shouldn’t shrivel up or look unhealthy. Your hens may drop a comb size when they quit laying, but they won’t completely lose the comb.
2. Can a chicken comb grow back?
If a chicken comb falls off or sustains injuries due to an illness or injury, it won’t grow back. Your chicken’s comb can heal from whatever caused it to shrivel up or sustain injuries in the first place.
3. Can you eat chicken combs?
Yes. You can barbeque and grill a chicken comb just like you would any other part of the chicken. The chicken comb doesn’t have much taste, but you can fry it up to be crispy.
Chicken combs are an important organ on your bird. They help indicate their health and help you keep them healthy. It’s a good idea to start paying attention to them. Also, take steps to keep them in good shape. Your chickens will thank you.